Sunday, August 04, 2013

Airport vital part of the local economy: Klamath Falls (KLMT), Oregon


Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2013 12:00 am

Every community has building blocks that form the foundation for the local economy. One of those in Klamath County is the Klamath Falls Airport. It’s not just for providing air service to travelers. It is just part of a much bigger picture that includes an estimated $440 million impact on the regional economy.

How well the Klamath Falls Airport is doing depends on what set of numbers are used. It’s a good news, bad news situation, pointed out airport director John Longley.

“The good news is that we have leveled out when looking at 2012, but the bad news is there’s quite a drop (in boardings) from 2011,” Longley said.

It also is a reason a marketing effort is under way to help the airport, which is owned and operated by the City of Klamath Falls. It deserves support.

Economic linchpin

Longley and many others firmly believe the airport is necessary for Klamath Falls’ economic growth. We think they’re right.

“It can’t be over-emphasized that commercial air service is critical for Klamath Falls,” Longley said. “Not only is it a matter of convenience by avoiding longer drives, parking fees and longer lines, but it is important for a competitive business community.”

Klamath Falls is hoping to build traffic through use of a $150,000 federal grant. The airport is contributing $10,000 toward the matching funds needed and Chip Massie, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce director, is leading the drive to raise $22,500.

Crater Lake connection

One of the marketing ideas that has come up has been to change the name of the airport to “Crater Lake Klamath Regional Airport.”

Before you write it off as awkward, consider this: A few keystrokes on a computer keyboard in a Google window turns up nearly eight million hits for Crater Lake. That might benefit the city that can most effectively brand itself as the “gateway” to Crater Lake National Park. (Take that, Medford and Roseburg.)

Airport activities also tie in with the Air National Guard and the F-15 training mission as well as industrial use of the airport facilities. About $1 million a year in Federal Aviation Administration funds help with the airfield’s upkeep, which benefits private and federal sectors alike.

The fact that Klamath Falls residents fight to keep the airport going and in good repair must benefit the local area’s efforts to keep Kingsley active and serving an important military purpose.

Periodically, the federal government goes through a lengthy process to approve base closures and it’s a worrisome time for the communities involved. Since 1989, some 350 military installations have been shut down. President Obama has asked for another round of closures in 2015.

A 2008 study of the regional impact of the airport from the Oregon Department of Aviation shows that Klamath Falls Airport likely had an “off-airport impact” of about $440 million. It was based on a survey of regional businesses that rely on aviation for business travel and cargo, rather than a specific airport.

Airports in a Klamath Falls-size market often struggle.

Even though the Klamath Falls airport appears to be frequently on the bubble of sustainability, the fact that it still has service north and south through a lengthy recession is remarkable.

It took work and a recognition of the airport’s importance and local residents supplied both. It’s always likely to be a work in progress.